Director’s Notes Redux

When I first wrote the director’s notes for The Pillowman, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say.  They came out as disconnected paragraphs, each the start of a different, but interconnected, idea.

Here’s what I was trying to say:

Heads Up Productions is in a state of flux.  This has been weighing heavily on my mind.  So has the need for action.  Both relate to our work on The Pillowman.

Few people understand the need to stop talking and act.  It’s safer to talk about skydiving than it is to jump out of an airplane.  It takes an act of heroism to leap into the unknown by jumping out of plane, starting a company, producing a show or stepping onto the stage.

TJ has described me as a person who, instead of reading the guidebook, likes to figure out the rules as I’m playing the game.  This refers to my approach to directing and to life.  I constantly tell people that I have no idea what I’m doing.  If I waited until I knew what I was doing, we would have never founded Heads Up.

That’s why rehearsing The Pillowman with The Method of Physical Actions was perfect.  It requires just that– action.  Instead of talking about who the characters were, instead of discussing logic (because people so seldom are logical), instead of deliberating about what the character would or would not do, the actors were asked to get onstage and perform the Herculean task:  do.

It was through action that we learned who these characters were, their inner logic and what they would or would not do.

Action preceded language.

As Dan alluded to in his essay, an essential trait that separates a Heads Up Company Member from everyone else is a continual need to improve both as artists and as people.  After working on Pillowman, I have discerned another necessary trait of a company member.  The ability to do.

We are defined by our doings.  Often we say one thing, yet do something else entirely.  Seldom are these actions related to logic.  Never have I witnessed anyone sit down to write a list entitled, “This is Who I Am” and use that list to form their identity.  Our identities are formed, by trial and error, around patterns of actions and behavior.

There are millions of quotes about the importance of taking action (, my favorite being a Chinese proverb, “talk doesn’t cook rice.”  But many people would rather talk and complain about the uncooked rice.

Stanislavski knew about this when he worked on The Method of Physical Actions.  He only chose a small number of actors to accompany him during the next phase of his research– Active Analysis.

I, too, only want to work with those people who are willing to take a risk.  Who are willing to be heroic.

Who are willing to act.

-Benjamin Rexroad
Managing Artistic Director


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